Global Navigation Element.
 


Winter 2009 Vol. 8 Number 3



Next
Table of Contents
Previous



SPOTLIGHT


An African Parliamentarian Speaks on the Unique Value of Academies

At the fourth annual conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), recently held in London, Patrick Amuriat Oboi, a member of the Parliament of Uganda and its Committee on Science and Technology, delivered the opening address. The following are excerpts of his speech "Why Would a Government Want Independent Advice?"

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Amuriat Oboi, photo by Bill Kearney

"The current disparity between developed and developing nations is due to the level and extent of application of scientific and technological capacities and innovation. Owing to this disparity, there is a need for governments, especially in the developing world, to engage in policies that are guided by independent advice.

"While many elements within a nation can produce credible scientific advice, a science academy can do so with a unique level of credibility due to its independence from nonscientific influences, the degree of access to leading experts and scientific literature, and the use of rigorous consensus and external review methods. An academy that releases its advice to not only sponsors but also to the general public fosters democratic processes by providing information important to public debate.

"Evidence-based advice is helpful in clarifying, buttressing, or even challenging a particular policy position. It can also help to entrench policy decisions, both enriching the process and probably legitimizing the decisions. [Because] many major donor and international lending institutions are increasingly basing aid and loans on the condition that reforms ensuring good governance are undertaken, tools that reinforce effective decision formulation and implementation, such as evidence-based advice, will help [nations] gain access to limited development assistance resources.

"The government of Uganda is adopting this approach [of using evidence-based advice as a policy planning tool] and has been particularly vocal on the subject. It can be projected that the practice of evidence-based policymaking will gain increasing attention in the foreseeable future, both in Uganda and other developing countries.

Participants at the fourth annual conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative, held November 2008 in London, photos by Bill Kearney
Participants at the fourth annual conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative, held November 2008 in London, photos by Bill Kearney
Participants at the fourth annual conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative, held November 2008 in London, photos by Bill Kearney

"There are challenges, however. Scientific research that would generate evidence-based information can be costly, and it may take a very long time for its benefits to be realized. In developing countries like Uganda, where floods, food and water shortages, outbreaks of disease, the effects of HIV/AIDS, and internal conflicts occur, the funding of scientific research [will not be the first priority]. Getting governments to act is another challenge. Independent advice, however convincing, may not impact policy if the policymakers do not embrace it.

"My conclusion is that African science academies and other organizations offering independent advice have an evident role to play in advancing national socio-economic aspirations. To fully apply their potential, the academies should be effectively linked into government policy implementation frameworks.

"At the broadest level, ASADI can contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of key policy decisions, which can in turn contribute to development goals, such as improved human health. It can promote the development process of Africa by strengthening the physical and intellectual infrastructure of science academies and their staff and by increasing the academies capacity to interact with their governments."

ASADI is a multiyear collaborative effort led by the U.S. National Academies and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to strengthen the capacity of African science academies to inform public policy and discourse through independent, evidence-based advice. For Oboi's full presentation, visit the ASADI homepage at <national-academies.org/asadi>.



Previous Table of Contents Next




Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences